Monterey >> A mobile organic food service and a water storage device that sucks moisture from the air were among the business startup ideas given awards Friday during the fifth annual Startup Challenge competition at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
“The idea of the awards is to motivate entrepreneurs, to educate and connect them with the business community,” said Brad Barbeau, event master of ceremonies and associate professor of entrepreneurship at the CSU Monterey Bay College of Business.
Contest competitors thought up detailed business plans for their ideas, and presented them before a gathering of spectators and a panel of judges. Winners were selected for the soundness of their plans and the best chance for success. They were awarded between $5,000 and $50,000, depending on their category.
Barbeau said the business startups the awards program has spawned resulted in economic development and jobs creation, improving the local economy.
“We provide workshops and mentors for participants,” he said. “The program gives them the experience of pitching a new business, and you have to think very carefully as you go through the process.”
Out of 12 competing business proposals, three finalists were named in the “Venture” category, businesses that are expected to expand into larger companies.
The winner, Water City, is the creation of Jeff Langholz, an associate professor at MIIS, and a graduate student, Maeve Murphy. The plan would install a device called an “Atmospheric Water Generator” at local residences.
“The atmospheric water generator is like a giant dehumidifier that sucks the moisture out of the air and converts it to pure drinking water,” Langholz said. “There are different size machines that can hold from 50 to 1,000 gallons of water.”
Such units reportedly are inexpensive to install, are capable of delivering water for as little as 10 cents for a gallon of water depending on electricity, and can lower water bills 75 percent.
Langholz said the installation of the devices would provide water-rate relief, especially to those customers suffering with the highest bills. He and Murphy hope to raise $500,000 from investors over the coming four months and start up business by July.
Winner in the “Main Street,” or small business category, was Katie’s Coldpress. Entrepreneur Katie Raquel of Seaside said the business would provide a food truck bringing healthful organic food and locally grown vegetables to area neighborhoods.
“I garden with my husband Derek, and that’s how I originally came up with the idea for Katie’s Coldpress,” Raquel said. “I wanted to start eating healthier, and to make health food more convenient and accessible to the public.”
She said she hopes to start the business this August.
Winner in the Student Category was Construction Connection, a proposal to start a website and use iPhone software to connect contractors locally with workers, and workers with jobs.
Cash prizes were awarded for the winners, $5,000 for the Student Category, $10,000 for the Main Street Category, and $50,000 for the Venture Category.
Former winners in recent years that have gone on to success included YoDerm.com, a website where people suffering from acne can get a board-certified dermatologist over the Internet, and Tablet Command, which uses iPads to monitor the whereabouts of emergency responders during fires and other emergencies.
Another company in Monterey, a 2013 winner called Open Ground Studios, provides artist exhibitions and instruction in book arts, print making, visual and other arts. Open Ground founder Denese Sanders said the Startup Challenge program was instrumental in her successful year in business.
Startup Challenge is a nonprofit organization. People wishing to participate in the program may see www.thestartupchallenge.org.
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